The Top 7 Christmas Video Ads of All Time

January 12, 2024
11 minutes

In a world where the number of internet users watching videos is set to surpass 3.5 billion in 2023, there's never been a more opportune moment to dive into video advertising. This figure eclipses the combined populations of China, India, and the United States, underscoring the immense potential of this medium.

But what happens when the timeless charm of Christmas meets the dynamic world of video ads? Magic.

In this blog post, we'll explore the top 7 Christmas video ads of all time. As with our latest effort to map the anatomy of a high-performing display awareness, you’ll learn why these ads have set the bar high and how they leverage the potent combination of emotional storytelling and strategic marketing to create unforgettable experiences.

Why video ads work

Video ads can uniquely captivate audiences in ways other mediums can't match. The blend of visual storytelling, sound, and motion creates an immersive experience that can convey emotions and narratives powerfully. This immersive quality ensures that the audience is not just viewing the ad but experiencing it.

Consider how TikTok and Instagram Stories have revolutionized content consumption by offering short, engaging videos. These platforms underline the fact that users are drawn to video content that is succinct yet compelling.

The statistics support this trend. According to Wyzowl (2023), 95% of video marketers have seen increased brand awareness through video content. This is because videos can distil complex messages into digestible snippets that are easily understood and memorable. They’re particularly effective in breaking down language and literacy barriers, making your message accessible to a broader audience.

According to the same source, a staggering 91% of businesses used video as a marketing tool in 2023, and 87% of marketers observed increased dwell time on their websites due to video content. These statistics demonstrate how effective video ads capture attention and foster a deeper connection with the audience.

The rise of CTV advertising

According to eMarketer, in 2023, the U.S. Connected TV (CTV) advertising expenditure was anticipated to reach $25.09 billion, with a substantial $21.52 billion allocated to programmatic advertising. This translates to approximately 86% of all CTV advertising funds being spent programmatically.

The importance of the first 5 seconds

The initial five seconds are pivotal. This brief window is your golden opportunity to seize the viewer's attention and set the tone for the entire message. The digital space is saturated with content, and viewers often decide whether to continue watching within the first few seconds. Captivating them immediately is essential.

1. Coca-Cola: Holidays Are Coming

The iconic Coca-Cola "Holidays are Coming" advertisement is a quintessential example of a Christmas video ad that has stood the test of time. First aired in 1995, this ad marked the beginning of the festive season for many and showcased the power of emotional storytelling in advertising.

Why it worked

At the heart of its success was its ability to forge a deep emotional connection with the audience. The ad didn't just sell a product; it sold an experience - the joy and warmth of the holiday season. This emotional resonance is a key element that brands strive for in their advertising, as it builds a stronger and longer-lasting relationship with the audience.

Nostalgia and tradition: The repeated airing of the ad year after year has turned it into a Christmas tradition. Nostalgia is a powerful tool in advertising, and Coca-Cola leveraged this by maintaining the ad's core elements unchanged over the years. This consistency has allowed generations to associate Coca-Cola with Christmas nostalgia.

Strong branding: The ad cleverly used Coca-Cola’s traditional red and white colour scheme, making it instantly recognizable. The visual of the lit-up Coca-Cola trucks driving through a snowy landscape became an iconic symbol of the brand and Christmas cheer. Strong branding like this ensures that viewers immediately connect the emotions evoked by the ad with the brand itself.

Inclusive spirit: The ad featured a wide range of people enjoying the festive season, promoting a message of inclusivity and unity. In today’s increasingly diverse society, ads that embrace and celebrate this diversity tend to resonate more with a global audience.

To add some more context to the ad's iconic success, analysis by Neurons shows that:

  • The Coke logo never leaves the screen for more than 3 seconds
  • The ad pattern: Happy faces. Coca-Cola. Repeat.
  • Throughout the ad, the brand is reinforcing the same message: 𝗖𝗼𝗰𝗮-𝗖𝗼𝗹𝗮 𝗘𝗾𝘂𝗮𝗹𝘀 𝗛𝗮𝗽𝗽𝗶𝗻𝗲𝘀𝘀. The colors, the bottle, the music.

2. John Lewis: The Long Wait

The holiday season is synonymous with heartwarming advertisements, and John Lewis's "The Long Wait" stands as high as an all-time classic. This ad, released during Christmas, captured the essence of anticipation and the spirit of giving, setting a benchmark for emotional storytelling in advertising.

Why it worked

The story of a young boy impatiently counting down to Christmas not to receive but to give tugs at the heartstrings. This emotional hook is key to making the ad memorable and impactful.

Relatable storytelling: The ad’s storyline is simple yet profound. It mirrors the universal experience of anticipation and the joy of giving, making it relatable to a wide audience. By tapping into common human experiences, the ad created a deep and lasting connection with viewers.

High-quality production: The ad's production values were exceptional, with meticulous attention to detail in every frame. From the cosy home setting to the expressive acting of the young protagonist, everything about the ad screams quality and care, which resonates with the audience.

Soundtrack choice: The choice of music played a significant role in the ad’s success. The soundtrack, a cover of a classic song, not only complemented the emotional tone of the ad but also became iconic in its own right, further enhancing the ad's memorability.

A recent emotional testing report by Realeyes - conducted by Artificial Intelligence which studied over 15,000 adverts - concluded that “The Long Wait” is the most effective John Lewis Christmas ad. It scored an 8.8 out of 10 for overall effectiveness based on a methodology that measured:

  • EmotionAll® Score A 1 to 10 performance score which compares videos’ emotional engagement across our entire database of thousands of over 10,000 previously-tested videos.
  • Attention Volume – The average volume of attention respondents paid to the content.
  • Attention Quality – The proportion of the video which respondents managed to keep continuously attentive for, on average.

The ad recorded some amazing stats:

  • More than 400 million YouTube views
  • The advert was  mentioned in more than 10,000 tweets and 190 blogs, with over 183,000 shares over seven days following the release
  • The ad brought in more than £500million in Christmas sales

3. John Lewis: Man On The Moon

In 2015, John Lewis presented a Christmas ad that transcended typical commercial expectations, taking viewers on a poignant journey titled “Man On The Moon.” This ad, part of their annual festive campaign, narrates the story of a young girl who discovers an elderly man living alone on the moon. Through her telescope, she witnesses his solitary existence and decides to send him a gift, thereby bridging the vast space between them. This was a collaboration with  Age UK to raise awareness of the fact that one million older people go for a month or more without speaking to anyone and that Christmas for the festive creative.

Why it worked

John Lewis’s “Man On The Moon” succeeded not just as a holiday advertisement but as a short film that captured hearts and minds.

Narrative depth: Unlike many holiday ads that rely on surface-level cheer, “Man On The Moon” delved into deeper themes like loneliness and the spirit of connection. This narrative depth created a more meaningful and memorable experience for viewers, tapping into a universal human experience.

Subtle brand integration: John Lewis’s branding was remarkably understated in the ad. The focus was not on products or overt marketing, but on storytelling. This subtle approach resonated with audiences, creating a genuine emotional connection rather than a transactional one.

Music choice: The soundtrack, a cover of “Half the World Away” by Oasis, performed by Norwegian artist Aurora, added a haunting and melancholic layer to the ad. This choice of music played a crucial role in setting the emotional tone.

According to MarketingWeek, the ad showcased some impressive numbers:

  • The ad significantly boosted sales, as indicated by the first weekly sales total surpassing £100m for the season.
  • The total sales amount of £110.4m marked a 1.5% increase compared to the previous year and a substantial 15.8% increase from the week before the ad's launch.
  • The 'Man on the Moon' advertisement was highly popular, gaining 22 million views within its first week.

4. Sainsbury's: 1914

The Sainsbury's "1914" Christmas ad, released in 2014, poignantly commemorates the 100th anniversary of the World War I Christmas truce. This emotionally charged ad reenacts the historic moment when soldiers on both sides of the conflict emerged from their trenches to share a brief peace and camaraderie on Christmas Day.

Why it worked

It's a masterful blend of history, emotion, and brand messaging, subtly integrating Sainsbury's chocolate bar as a symbol of sharing and togetherness.

Historical resonance: This ad stood out because it tapped into a deeply emotional and historically significant event. Recreating the 1914 Christmas truce connected viewers to a poignant historical moment, making the ad memorable and impactful.

Cinematic quality: The ad's high production value and cinematic quality contributed to its effectiveness. The attention to historical detail and superb acting and direction elevated it from a mere commercial to a short film experience.

Social message: It conveyed a powerful social message about peace, unity, and the spirit of Christmas. This resonated with viewers beyond just a marketing message, fostering a deeper connection with the Sainsbury's brand.

To sprinkle some numbers and contextualise success, according to Modern Retail, Sainsbury’s ‘1914’ campaign made a profit of £24 for every £1 spent on it. The ad currently sits at 24 million views on YouTube.

5. H&M: Come Together

In the bustling realm of holiday advertising, H&M's "Come Together" stands out as a masterclass in cinematic storytelling. Directed by the inimitable Wes Anderson, known for his distinctive visual and narrative style, this ad transports viewers into a whimsical yet relatable world. The short film features Adrien Brody as a train conductor who, faced with travel delays, orchestrates an impromptu Christmas celebration for the passengers.

Why it worked

The charm of this ad lies not just in its heartwarming narrative but also in its meticulous attention to visual detail, a hallmark of Anderson's work.

Distinctive aesthetic: Wes Anderson's signature style - symmetrical compositions, a pastel colour palette, and meticulous attention to detail - rendered the ad instantly recognizable and visually captivating. This uniqueness helped it stand out amidst the clutter of typical holiday advertising.

Star protagonist: Adrien Brody's performance added a touch of Hollywood glamour, attracting a broader audience. His portrayal of a compassionate and resourceful conductor elevated the story’s emotional impact.

Universal appeal: The ad transcended cultural and geographic boundaries. Its focus on universal themes like kindness, community, and the joy of giving made it relatable to a global audience.

Nominated for D&AD Award at Cannes Lions the ad has to showcase some amazing milestones according to Chief Creative Officer, Till Diestel:

  • The four-minute hero film of the 'Come Together' campaign reached over 860 million people online.
  • It received more than 19 million views on YouTube, marking a 220% increase year-over-year (YoY).
  • The hero video post garnered 62.6 million viewers across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, a 95.8% increase YoY.
  • #ComeTogether trended worldwide on its release day, sparking widespread conversation throughout the campaign.
  • The campaign indirectly contributed to a 6% YoY growth across the H&M group.

6. Edeka: Homecoming

Edeka's "Homecoming" ad, released during Christmas, strikes a deep chord in the viewer's heart. This ad tells the poignant story of an elderly man who spends multiple Christmases alone, as his busy family members cannot visit. In a twist that brings his family together, he fakes his demise, only to reunite with them during the holidays.

Why it worked

The ad's narrative arc is both surprising and emotionally engaging, effectively capturing the essence of family bonds and the season’s spirit.

Relatable characterization: The portrayal of the elderly man taps into a universal theme of loneliness among older generations. This relatability evokes empathy in viewers, making the ad resonate on a personal level.

Subversion of expectations: The plot twist – where the family believes the patriarch has passed away – is a bold move that subverts the typical festive ad narrative. It creates a dramatic tension that captivates viewers, ensuring that the message of the importance of family during the holidays is strongly delivered.

Narrative innovation: Unlike typical Christmas ads that focus on joy and celebration, Edeka chose a narrative that revolves around loneliness and reunion. This unexpected storyline grabs the audience's attention, making it memorable and impactful.

Currently sitting at 69 million views, the ad was a discussion point in 2015 and a reference point today.

7. Allegro: English For Beginners

In the 2016 Christmas ad by Allegro, a leading Polish e-commerce platform, viewers are taken on a heartwarming journey with an elderly Polish man who embarks on the challenge of learning English. This ad stands out for several reasons, distinguishing it from the typical holiday commercial fare.

Why it worked

The ad perfectly combines heart, humor, and universal appeal.

Relatable character arc: The protagonist, an elderly man, is not your usual ad hero. His determination to learn a new language at his age creates an inspiring narrative that resonates deeply with viewers.

Cross-cultural connection: This ad transcends borders by focusing on the universal theme of family connection, making it relatable to a global audience. The effort to bridge the language gap underscores the importance of cross-cultural understanding.

Humor as a narrative tool: Rather than just for laughs, humor is used to progress the storyline and character development, making the man's journey more engaging and memorable. Moments like the man labeling his dog as "dog" and practicing English phrases in unlikely scenarios add a light-heartedness that is both amusing and endearing.

In just four weeks following its release, the ad recorded up 56 million views across YouTube and Facebook.

Antonis has a decade of experience in marketing. From blog posts to newsletters, he is responsible for (almost) all things content at Eskimi. When he is not typing away, he is searching for new restaurants or adding more travel destinations to his bucket list.
Antonis has a decade of experience in marketing. From blog posts to newsletters, he is responsible for (almost) all things content at Eskimi. When he is not typing away, he is searching for new restaurants or adding more travel destinations to his bucket list.
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